Your baby grunting in sleep explained

baby lying in bed asleep

by Bryony Firth-Bernard |

Throughout your baby’s development you’ll hear them make lots of unusual sounds and noises when they’re awake and when they go to sleep. One you may notice, which can sometimes cause concern, is your baby grunting in their sleep.

Usually, this is completely normal, but if your baby's grunting tends to persist, it could also indicate that there's a problem. We spoke to Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife, to find out.

Why does my baby grunt in their sleep?

“Your baby may make normal grunting noises during their sleep if they are opening their bowels, passing gas and/or if they are constipated,” says Lesley. “They may also grunt after the very occasional breath, when they are dreaming, perhaps as an expression of discomfort or content; when they are stretching or sometimes, as they are falling asleep. Rarely, grunting in a baby may be due to a problem. Issues such as reflux, infection, certain heart conditions and respiratory distress can cause your baby to grunt.”

Should I be worried?

“Grunting noises can be normal but they can also be a symptom of a problem, so it is important to be able to differentiate between normal grunting noises and a grunting baby that may be unwell,” says Lesley. “In the cases when it denotes a problem, grunting tends to persist (not just happen when your baby is having a poo or as an occasional ‘noisy breath’) and usually is accompanied by other signs and symptoms. These can include a change in their colour, tone and/or behaviour, a high temperature, flaring of their nostrils when they breathe in and/or other signs of laboured breathing – such as their chest/tummy being ‘sucked in’ when they breathe in. In such cases, or if you feel that there is something not right with your baby, always seek urgent medical advice.”

When will my baby stop grunting in their sleep?

“Most babies stop grunting in their sleep when they are about three to four months old, or when their tummy muscles are strong enough to help with bowel movements, until then, they tend to engage their diaphragm when they strain, an action which puts pressure on their glottis (voicebox).”

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